Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts from the ‘Photography’ category

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-28

St. Leonard’s Forest, West Sussex, October 2019

After a night of stormy weather, the high winds blew through the woods and really I probably shouldn’t have been there. But October is such a special time in the woodland year that any time spent there is to be cherished.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-3

I walked for three or so hours in the Forest and found lots of species, masses of small brown and grey mushrooms in the leaf litter that don’t make great photos. My first find was a lovely species known as twig parachute.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-4

Staying in macro mode these miniscule bonnets were were growing from a bed of moss on the buttress of a tree.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-6

There is a small clearing I’ve recently found, well hidden from paths but obviously the secret space for other visitors as well. Here a thick humus of leaf litter and, in particular, beech nuts were creating good fruiting ground for mushrooms. This little brittlegill (I always prefer their Latin name of Russula, indicative of their redness) was one of those to benefit.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-5

A beech tree has dropped a large limb and deadwood fungi have begun to colonise it. This is a splitgill and only really comes to life after prolonged rain. It’s a process of re-hydration. They’re tricky to photograph but always look nice with some bokeh (the baubles of light) in the background.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-8

In the mosses growing in the dark and wet corners under holly trees, species like what-I-think-is curry milkcap were fruiting. This species is said to have a curry-like taste.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-14

St. Leonard’s Forest sits on the edge of sandy heathland soils and Wealden clay. Passing into the heathy areas which make it a ‘Forest’ (forests were open landscapes used for hunting by the aristocracy, and don’t denote woodland alone) fly agaric suddenly arrived. These shrooms are thought to have given Father Christmas his red and white outfit and provided the hallucinatory impact that gave visions of reindeer flying. I’ll write something about that one day but still, these should be treated as deadly poisonous.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-39

While we’re on deadly shrooms, this relative of fly agaric is panther cap. It’s definitely poisonous and is more photogenic when it’s in its bulbous stage. Again it’s common on sandy heathland soils.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-25

There is some constant pleasure about seeing boletes. Perhaps it’s because the cep/penny bun/porcini is the tastiest. This bolete scares me. Can you see the smiley face and squiggle of hair on the cap?

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-20

Days of cloud were broken up by the storm and it was a relief to see some sunshine. This footbridge runs over a gill that cuts between the clay woods and the heathland on that travels further east into St. Leonard’s Forest and the wider Weald. The gill was as full as I’d seen it because of torrential downpours.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-51

On my way back home I found a gang of clustered bonnets on a trunk that crossed a path. It had been chainsawed in half so people can still walk through. It’s the perfect height and position for photos.

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-45

Owlbeech - 18-10-2019 lo-res-38

The sun broke through the trees and lit the bonnets where they had squeezed their way out from behind the bark. To me they look a little bit like they’re hiding from something beyond the wood they cower behind.

Read more:

The Sussex Weald

My Wood-Wide-Web

 

2 Comments

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-3

Ebernoe Common, Sussex Weald, October 2019

Last week I spent a drizzly and dark afternoon at Ebernoe Common, a National Nature Reserve managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust. It was raining not only water but mushrooms. The first signs of the good times came in the shape of a magpie inkcap. This is something I’ve only seen three times, twice at Ebernoe and once on the North Downs.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-1

The word magpie relates to the English phrased ‘pied’ which means black and white. This species goes into the delicious state of deliquesce (an inky kind of melting), just like its relative the shaggy inkcap. Unlike the shaggy inkcap, though, it’s toxic so don’t eat it. The thing I like about this image is the glow of green in the background gradually turning to yellow as autumn progresses. Beech usually provides this kind of backdrop.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-4

Porcelain fungus is a reliable species. It fruits in the same place, often en masse, each year. It is a beautiful species but the beauty, like so many things, lies underneath.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-7

The gloopy glimmer of the cap is photogenic but the gills of porcelain fungus are stunning.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-13

I use a small LED light to illuminate mushrooms in this way. I can’t tell you how much more character this can offer to photos. Actually I can: a lot more.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-21

Here you can see my roving light (yes, I meant this!) mixing it with some delicious bokeh in the background. Leaves and branches create lovely bokeh because of the break of light in the gaps.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-20

Here is one of ‘the finished images’. I like that the light circles can imitate the caps of mushrooms in photos and offer a deeper layer of resonance and reflection. Who knew.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-38

In photography, macro is where the fun happens. There are so many amazing things happening at our feet that our eyes are incapable of seeing without the help of magnification. If you want to have a go at macro, don’t hesitate. Just do it. I call this one ‘Climb every mountain’. The piece of deadwood does have the appearance of a peak in this light. The mushroom is like a protagonist, playing on a theme of mushrooms as individuals or sentient beings throughout human history:

16a9e28079e352a3d6d8ff664898b820-christmas-themes-christmas-cards

5d58176f8caa8c1e9faf25e0ab9f6bc8-picture-postcards-mushrooms

This seems to be particularly prevalent in German culture and Christmas or New Year celebrations. Christmas has evolved from Pagan traditions (Paganism was once considered any religion which was non-Christian) and the place nature has in the human imagination is pretty clear here.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-16

Back to life, back to reality. Honey fungus is enjoying its first boom phase and seems to be having a good year.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-18

There is a dead veteran beech tree at Ebernoe Common which is basically where all the mushrooms live. This wide angle image shows just how many larger species were making a home within the tree. Here you can see giant polypore (bottom left), honey fungus in the middle and Ganoderma brackets everywhere. This is a stunning tree and of the highest ecological importance because of all the species, not just fungi, it supports. All of these species are contributing to the tree’s decay and recycling into organic matter (soil).

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-9

Not far away was a patch of hen-of-the-woods, an aggressive root-rotter (harsh). It’s said to smell like mice (more harsh).

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-42

You can imagine how I thought someone was playing a trick when I passed this. A swing made from a beech log that was covered in porcelain fungus. It was embarrassingly hard to photograph well. Thankfully only the mushrooms were looking and they haven’t evolved to use Twitter yet.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-47

On my way out I spotted this slurp of fungus low on a log by the path.

Ebernoe - 11-10-2019 djg-50

Looking closely with the macro lens it has the appearance of something you might find in a coral reef. Then that’s the beauty of woodland, it has a depth to it that you have to dive in to experience for yourself.

Thanks for reading.

 

Read more:

The Sussex Weald

My Wood-Wide-Web

 

2 Comments

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-6-2

Howgill Fells, Yorkshire Dales National Park, October 2019

At the beginning of October, my friend Eddie Chapman and I walked ten miles into the Howgill Fells in the Cumbrian reaches of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. You can view and download the walk on ViewRanger here.

The evening before the walk we passed the Howgills during the golden hour. A day of heavy rain dried up and the sun cast its glaze across the folds of the fells.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-10-2

Cloud hung over the Calf, the highest peak in the area and was to remain for the next day.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-4-2

The stone barns are one of the Yorkshire Dale’s most iconic features. Swaledale seems to have the greatest compliment of these beautiful structures.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-11-2

The walk began from Sedbergh, the largest settlement in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The day was sunny and surprisingly warm.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-12-2

The cloud still lingered over the highest points but the fields glowed in the morning sun.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-13-2

Looking east towards Garsdale, the Yorkshire Dales are always more wooded than I remember.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-4

As we made our way up into the hills through a steady ascent, the clouds settled in overhead.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-3

Here Eddie could still make out a small family group of stonechat in some bracken.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-6

Climbing higher onto Arant Haw the mist locked down, a strange and claustrophobic experience.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-10

Up and over our first peak, the mist began to clear only when we headed towards the Calf, the highest point of the Howgills.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-14

It was a great relief to have the folds of the fells reappearing from the cloud.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-12

Anyone who has travelled between Glasgow and Manchester will have passed the Howgills. At this junction in the fells the motorway can be heard in the distance and the small specks of vehicles passing. Above you can see what looks like the remains of an old sheep pen.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-22

The clouds lifted and the fells appeared. The creases speak of millenia-old waterways.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-16

Greater views began to appear, with Ribblesdale appearing in the distance in the shape of Whernside, one of the three peaks famed for the 30-mile day hike challenge.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-24

Atop the Calf, Eddie is happy to be out of the clouds for once.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-30

This sheep felt like it was being watched.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-26

The light began to dip as we headed deeper into the folding Howgills.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-33

Our target was Cautley Spout, the waterfall that would lead us down into the valley for a return to Sedbergh along the river Rawthey.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-47

The waterfall thunders down into the valley from Cautley Crag.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-55

The waterfall is a safehaven for trees, unlike the wider hillsides which are either unsuitable due to the boggy nature of the moorland or because of sheep grazing. Rowan, ash, holly and elm were all growing in the gully.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-50

The limestone surrounding the falls is covered by map lichens glowing neon.

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-49

Yorkshire Dales - October 2019 blog-58

This area holds evidence of an Iron Age settlement. It isn’t surprising. There is protection, the river provides food and once woodland will have been more prevalent providing fuel. This landscape was potentially a site of spiritual significance. The allure is undeniable.

More photography

ViewRanger route

2 Comments

Cowdray Park - 16-9-2019 djg lo-res-14

Cowdray Park, Sussex Weald, September 2019

It’s a grey and dark September evening. Robins sing solitary from trees in their autumnal fashion. Cars wash nearby on the A272, to and from the village of Easebourne. The bracken rests in stages of green, yellow and brown. In Cowdray Park a sign warns of the bull in the field, but there are no cattle. The only beasts are the trees sat across the undulating hillside of parkland. Here lives the 1000 year old Queen Elizabeth oak and the Cowdray Colossus, the biggest sweet chestnut in England.

I pass creeping thistle still in flower and others with their leaves thinning to a translucent yellowy green. Walking under one of the ancient oaks, it looks like a rabbit’s head, its heartwood torn out and lying on the ground. An alcove has become of its bark, like a doorway to another place. It’s a fair metaphor, the word oak derives from an old name for door.

Cowdray Park - 16-9-2019 djg lo-res-15

The second oldest oak sits on the hill, its heartwood also lost, mainly trampled out by cattle and people. But now it has a fence around it. In front of the fence stands a roe deer. It watches me in complete stillness. I approach one slow step at a time, taking a photo each time I get closer. Soon it turns on its heels and disappears off behind the tree, springing into the air. I see it rising up and down beyond the fence like a merry-go-round.

I approach the oak and see it is producing acorns. How many millions of acorns has this sessile oak tree produced in its 800 or so years of life. How many autumns has it lived through? Perhaps as many as 800. Our lives seem so small and precious, fragile in comparison to this natural treasure.

Cowdray Park - 16-9-2019 djg lo-res-16

Explore my Wealden archive

Leave a comment

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-37

Loch Lomond, Scotland, September 2019

I am very fortunate to be able to visit relatives at the foot of the Scottish Highlands. It’s a landscape that I first experienced when visiting family in Perthshire and Stirlingshire about 10 years ago. My family haven taken me to visit the dramatic hills north of Perth, places like the Pass of Killicrankie, the ancient Birnam oak and sycamore, and Rob Roy’s grave in Balquhidder. My cousin was married in Pitlochry one Christmas and the misty woods of the southern Scottish Highlands left their mark on my sense of the place: dark, mysterious and forbidding. Little did I know that it was so close to an ancient continental clash, the Highland Boundary Fault:

Around 430 million years ago two small continents, one equating to modern Scandinavia and the other to the eastern seaboard of North America slammed, geologically speaking, into each other throwing up a vast mountain range similar in many respects to the modern Himalayas. At the height of the uplifting phase the peaks may have breached even the 30,000ft ceiling. – via Greg Murray, Scotlandinfo.eu

Those mountains thrown up are the Scottish Highlands, themselves now ground down to the rounded hills they largely present themselves to be. Just imagine, two continents once with their own flora and fauna now fused together.

The Highland Boundary Fault actually cuts through the northern part of Loch Lomond. If my geology is correct this picture was taken on the south-eastern side of the fault. Two worlds, long since collided.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-46

Like so many of the landscapes we hold dear in the UK, Loch Lomond was formed by the retreating glaciers over a period over several hundred thousand years. On the shore this oak tree protruded from an area of soil, still managing to survive with most of its roots probably under water.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-41

Oaks don’t like it too wet in the UK, unlike willow, aspen or alder, the last of which actually needs flowing water to prosper. Oaks like soil that drains well which makes this one all the more unusual. Like everything in nature, there will be an explanation.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-55

Loch Lomond is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, made more diverse by the series of islands that are dotted across the surface of the lake. The result of the messy retreat of glaciers, dragging rocks and debris along with them, the ensuing flow of water from the melting ice carving out more of the landscape and filling it with water.

Loch Lomond - September 2019 djg lo-res-1

Along the shores of Loch Lomond, Western Atlantic Woodlands grow mossy and wild. More civilised was the flow of walkers along the West Highland Way. Americans, Germans, French, English and indeed Scots were present in a constant flow (bar the pic above). I know this type of woodland as Celtic Rainforest. They are found in the western, wet areas of the British Isles such as here in Scotland, Wales, south-western England and western Ireland. They abound with mosses and liverworts, and they drip with lichens. They get branded as Celtic from the fact they exist in areas where the ancient Celtic-speaking tribes of Britain presided. They consist of oak, birch and hazel in the main.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-49

For anyone who has seen this website before it will come as no surprise to read that I was on the lookout for fungi. I found this species of what I reckon might be a kind of honey fungus (Armillaria) and some pleasing spreads of sulphur tuft:

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-50

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-52

These mushrooms were at a part in the West Highland Way where walkers would pause to catch their breath. I heard lots of snapshots of conversations here, like the two Americans remarking that Donald Trump was a conspiracy theorist (no, really?).

I was quizzed by a couple from Yorkshire about what I would do with the fungi photos.

‘Do you print them or put them in an album?’ a woman asked.

‘I put them online, usually,’ I said. ‘But the main thing is to enjoy being out here.’

I was trying to sound virtuous, then again they were the ones who were walking the near-100 miles of the trail in pretty woeful conditions before then. The woman showed me that she had a film camera with her, a passion she had held for decades. More than anything when looking for or photographing mushrooms, the pleasure is in the moment of finding something, be it new, interesting or unusual.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-60

Before heading back beyond the Highland Fault to visit my family for the evening, I was taken aback to hear a raven low in an oak, belting out its call. I had never seen one so close. It sounded so much like its words were oak, oak, oak!

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-61

Whatever it meant, the raven surely could not have known that its flight across Loch Lomond took in two continents.

Thanks for reading.

View my woodland archive

Leave a comment

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-21

Strathyre Forest, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland, September 2019

I’m in Strathyre Forest, a Forestry Scotland plantation in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The view of Loch Lubnaig comes and goes as the mist travels between the hills with the cars, lorries and motorbikes along the road down below. I’m sitting on a lump of rock, surrounded by the dead trunks of spruce trees, their successors rising below at their rotting toes. Around old spruce stumps felled by foresters, heather grows and flowers. Birch saplings and rosebay willowherb enjoy this pause in the blanket of monolithic trees.

Looking up for a moment, I’m given a shock by the sudden appearance of the loch and the surrounding hills. The mist has cleared and the shape of the loch’s marshy edges, fringed by the Lego shapes of a caravan park, where the river winds its way in, has appeared. A single spruce stands broken and dead, a mast of decay over Strathyre. A bird flies up, gradually picking a spot to perch on. It sits on the top branch and calls out.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-13

On the slow and drizzly ascent up to this point, I’ve spent most time on ground level photographing mushrooms. Under the dark monoculture of spruce red russulas are fruiting in profusion. I take photos using the camera’s timer so need to be really still so as not to disturb the camera, otherwise the picture will blur.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-15

The details are very fine and sometimes the focus is on a very small thing. This means stillness for me.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-27

My stillness meant birds flocking nearby came very close: goldcrests in their tens, with one within reach of my hand, then a young robin in a half-youth, half-adult plumage.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-19

It flew right at me and swooped away to land on a branch. It followed me back out onto the track and, perhaps, led me to a the biggest Boletus edulis I have seen. ‘Stick with me,’ I said, ‘and you’ll see mushrooms.’ I didn’t see the robin again after that.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-24

Away from the dark stands of plantations mosses, lichens and smaller mushrooms flourished at the buttresses of huge spruce and pine trees. One of the largest fly agarics I have ever seen opened like an upturned umbrella amidst its little brothers and sisters. There was light and life here that the close stocking together of trees does not allow.

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-5

There I found lots of small mushrooms like deceivers, webcaps and plenty of others like milkcaps and lots of boletes sodden by days of rain. They reflect the attitude of a woman I heard in the pub last night as she discussed the wet forecast over the coming days. She would still be going out and enjoying her holiday. ‘It’s just water,’ she said.

Explore my Wood Wide Web

Leave a comment

Midhurst to Singleton on the New Lipchis Way, West Sussex, August 2019

Midhurst is a market town in rural West Sussex, right in the geographical heart of the South Downs National Park. A friend and I spent the evening walking a section of the New Lipchis Way that connects Midhurst and Singleton. It was a walk of 8 miles through several different habitats, undulating over varied geology. The New Lipchis Way sounds like something from Pagan Britain, but really it’s just that the walk begins in Liphook in Hampshire and ends in Chichester.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-6

We began at Midhurst via the Cowdray Ruins, along the river Rother at the bottom of St. Ann’s Hill which once held a castle on its top. Remnants of the castle are still printed onto the hilltop. The way carries on through fields where ginormous sweet chestnuts are set in an avenue at the bottom of farmland. Soon the agricultural world is left behind for plantations imprinted on heathland around Heyshott and Ambersham Commons. Here the heather was beginning to bloom. The way crosses the old railway line that once served Midhurst.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-13

Soon the South Downs break into view and the heathlands of the Greensand are left behind for Heyshott village. The use of the word ‘shot’ at the end of a placename usually refers to an extra piece of land extending from a settlement. Hence Aldershot and the variable Oakeshot. The church is a combination of chalk flint from the South Downs, oak timbers, sandstone blocks and clay tiles from the Weald and wooden panels and slats, presumably also from the Weald. The church probably dates from the 13th century.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-14

I love the feeling of moving between settlements and countryside when walking and that drop-off in noise and activity for the stillness of an open or natural landscape. Here we passed through fields of wheat to reach the ridge of the South Downs at Heyshott. In the image above you can see the gradual dying back of ash trees on the ridge as the disease takes effect.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-15

Looking back from the wheatfields you can see the ridge of Greensand Hills in the background, the woody heathlands in the middle and then the churchspire of Heyshott one layer closer.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-16

Rising with the chalk, in the distance you can see Bexleyhill where the mast pokes out. These hills are part of the same Greensand ridge as Woolbeding Common, to the west or left hand side in this image. The river Rother runs from left to right (west-east) in this image, cutting between the distant hills and those of Heyshott and Ambersham Commons. Note the arrival of ash and whitebeam trees on either side on this rural chalky lane.

Midhurst-Singleton D750 - 8-8-2019 (99)

The light began to fade as the clouds came in and we made our ascent up onto the ridge of the South Downs. It was a dark, horsefly-occupied stretch which was so steep it shut any conversation down. Yew woods covered the northern slopes, such is their want on chalk. They give off an eerie vibe, light rarely breaks their cover. They are rare as woodlands.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-17

Up on Heyshott Down we were met by some badger-faced sheep, evidently they get fed by passersby or people who, like us, get to this point and hit the deck. Heyshott Down is rich in chalk grassland flowers but also in burial mounds. I heard someone say once that the South Downs ridge, all 100 miles of it, was the equivalent of a really long, ancient graveyard.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-18

The Lipchis Way then slips down through the non-stop beech plantation of Charlton Forest. Rain came in and the light was so low I took few pictures. We found this vast clearing where new conifers had been planted. You may be able to spot the hunting seats. This is the kind of heavily industrialised landscape that is found across Europe. It could be the Czech Republic, France or Scotland. It is a controlled landscape. Hunting and shooting are common past times in this part of West Sussex.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-19

Leaving Charlton Forest behind after a good 20 minutes, you arrive at Levin Down, a Sussex Wildlife Trust nature reserve. On the edge of the reserve sits this twisted ash tree, recoiling from the woods and reaching out into the open landscape. This is another eerily open landscape, set against the wonderful diversity of Levin Down. The name derives from ‘Leave Alone’ because it was too steep to plough, thank God.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-27

The light was so dull here that my camera’s excellent low-light skills came into action. Levin Down is chalk grassland with some stunning veteran juniper trees. Juniper would once have been much more common in areas of chalk downland. I have only ever seen it at Box Hill in the wild in the UK. In the White Carpathians of the Czech Republic, a landscape similar to the South Downs, they replant them to try and resurrect their populations.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-25

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-24

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-23

You may know juniper from their berries because it is used to produce gin. The junipers on Levin Down are works of art. Like grim reapers their limbs look to be covered by overhanging sleeves, reaching out across the ground, rearing up like the pointed tips of hats. It feels like they’re pointing at you as they reach out to you from their place in the meadows.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-30

Leaving Levin Down behind, we dropped down through chalk heath (a super rare habitat), one of the most pungent meadows I’ve ever smelt due to the wild marjoram or oregano. The way drops into the old part of Singleton, a village known for the Weald and Downland Museum. Thatched cottages with chalk flints sit with windows showing a cosy inner glow. A lovely place to end the walk.

Mids-Singleton - 8-8-2019 djg-29

Explore my Wealden archive

Leave a comment